Hop, Skip and a Jump

By: Katie Austin

Where did the summer go? Can you believe we are already midway through September?

I don’t know about you, but it seems as though the months are just flying by! They say time flies when you are having fun, so this girl must be having a lot of fun. :)

I do love this time of year as we transition into Fall and cooler temperatures. Mother Nature moves over to warmer colors, and college football in the air. (Go Gamecocks! Sorry, just had to work that into my blog somewhere…LOL.)

Though I am excited about the new season, I do worry about keeping up my new health routine. As I shared in my last post, “My Aha Moment,” my husband and I started a simple exercise/eating healthy ritual that’s helping us to gradually lose weight. During the summer, school is out and we participate in many outdoor activities. But as schedules get busier and activities move indoors, I worry that I will go back to old habits. I don’t want to lose my momentum, and I want to be sure that our recent changes become lifetime habits.

How can we accomplish this, especially during the holiday season?

I pondered this question for a while. I went back in time, remembering when I finished chemotherapy and needed something to motivate me. My body was weak and my muscles atrophied. I wanted something to focus on, a way to take steps toward getting back in shape. I found the Avon Walk and joined a team to walk 39 miles.

That’s what I needed to do: find events that will provide opportunities to exercise while giving back and helping me stay focused. Perfect!

I recently participated in a Habitat for Humanity Women Build, which was a women-only event. Boy, I had no idea sod could be that heavy!

habitat for humanityI am registered to participate in two events this October: the Walk for Life (10/18/14) and to walk 39 miles in the Avon Walk in Charlotte, NC (10/25-26/14).
avon walk

See the links below for volunteer opportunities at an upcoming build or to register to walk:

There are many other events taking place this Fall that are just a hop, skip and a jump away. A quick Goggle search and you will find several to choose from.

Don’t get me wrong, we are still walking and watching what we eat. These events just offer different ways of exercising.

Remember to keep your health toward the top of your list and to keep moving.

 

 

Service With a Smile

By: Lara Winburn

I am a sucker for good customer service. I once wrote a note to a waitress at a Pizza Hut because her service was so stellar. I have been a waitress and have owned a retail shop; in my mind, service is what separates a good place from a great place. My roommate and I once called the customer service number at Sonic to rave about the service we received…it got us a coupon for a free burger, I do believe – more great service.

Recently my three year old broke her arm. She is fine but it has hindered her social calendar quite a bit. A few weeks before the break, I had scheduled some time at The Little Gym. We had a gift certificate that was going to expire (typical) and I thought both Great customer servicekids would like it and it would be a nap-making kind of activity. Well, I have been to The Little Gym (N. Beltline Blvd) one time for a birthday party. They do not know me or my cute kiddos, but due to arm break I had to cancel our classes there. (It just seemed like the heavy cast might make a balance beam more of a challenge.)

You see that picture of that Get Well Card? That is what they sent my daughter. Just because I told them the reason I was cancelling and that we would try again when all of our appendages were in working order. The inside is signed by who I assume are the sweet teachers that spend their Saturdays teaching kids there. Is that service or what? A little human touch goes a long way. I am now a huge fan of Little Gym.

I am not much of a shopper, because of time and money restraints blah blah blah. But a few weeks ago I ordered shoes from Zappos.com. I feel certain you may have heard of this little company. My mom may be single handedly keeping them in business. Anyway, I ordered some shoes that magically appeared on my door in two days. I tried on the shoes and they did not fit quite right. (One more blessing of pregnancy…new shoe size.) As I studied the shoes I noticed they looked previously worn. Or, at best, tried on by an elephant kicking a soccer ball. So, I decided to call customer service. Not because I was mad, I just did not want to send the shoes back and they think my pet elephant had been kicking a soccer ball with them, or that I wore them out on the town and sent them back. I explained to the lovely sales representative (after listening to the Zappos “joke of the day”) that the shoes did not fit properly. I also wanted to tell them for the record if they looked worn it was not by me. I even said “I am not mad about this and this is not why I am returning them I just thought someone should know and mark it in my shoe chart. The sales associate apologized for the inconvenience and we disconnected. Thirty minutes later, I got a $25 gift certificate because of the inconvenience. Yep, the total hassle dialing 10 numbers just to cover my own tail before I mailed back (on Zappos’ dime) shoes that magically appeared on my doorstep a day before. Total hassle?? If this is someone’s idea of a real inconvenience, let’s talk.

When humans treat humans like humans it really just warms my heart. I am sure we all have lots of examples of bad service, disappointing products, and total retail disrespect – but sometimes there is a little service with a smile. And for that I am thankful. (It doesn’t take much.)

**Disclaimer: For the record, I LOVE LOCAL SMALL BUSINESSES and do not buy everything online. These just happened to be my two examples as of late.**

Guardian Angels

By: Shannon Shull    

Angel

Belief in guardian angels can be traced back to the beginning of time. The concept is clearly present in the bible. Mystics, Christians, Catholics, Jews, Pagans… I could go on and on. In almost every religion there is mention of guardian angels. Some Muslims believe we each have two guardian angels, one on each side of us. Guardian angels are said to be assigned to individuals to aid and protect. It’s really a matter of faith. Do we all have a guardian angel? Could such a lovely thing be real? There is no scientific evidence to prove that guardian angels exist. So for now, it is truly a matter of faith.

“The wisdom of the ages teaches that each individual, whether believer or not, good or bad, old or young, sick or well, rich or poor, has a personal guardian angel with him or her at every moment of life’s journey.” – Janice T. Connell

A dear friend of mine once told me that when we dream of those special and close to us that have passed, it’s their way of communicating with us. A lot of us have had those moments when we sense something special, whether smells, visions, or dreams of a loved one that has passed. In those moments, our brain tries to rationalize and say, “Oh, it’s just my mind playing tricks on me, that wasn’t real.” My friend told me to simply believe. If a loved one that has passed comes into our consciousness or dreams, take it seriously and allow yourself to believe that it really is them communicating with you, letting you know that they are ok. Sometimes they may even be sending us an important message. I choose to believe this because I’ve had all too many occasions in which a loved one has visited me in my dreams or in some other random, odd way. It always brings me such peace, not to mention happiness, at getting to see them again or have the memory of them alive in my thoughts.

I sometimes wonder if these special loved ones are my guardian angels. Or could there maybe be an assigned angel that is all mine? I will never know. But I do know that I have had so many moments in which I know for a fact that I should’ve gotten hurt or even worse, killed. You know those times when you’re driving and you have such a close call that you cannot fathom how you did not wreck? Moments when you think that by some miracle you magically escaped injury or worse? Or just simple moments when you slip but somehow mysteriously catch yourself and avoid getting hurt. Even those moments when you’re given the courage to face something in your life, do something brave, stand up for yourself, or take a leap of faith. Is there a guardian angel at our side guiding us along, giving us strength, and leading us into the direction we’re meant to go?

I don’t know and I’m quite certain I will never know for sure. But I do know that I choose to believe, to have faith that a guardian angel (or angels) is looking after me. I’m thankful for them. I’m thankful for those loved ones that have passed on, but are still in my heart, in my dreams and watching over me. Whatever the explanation may be, I will continue to have faith.

“Angels are principally the guardians of our spirits. Their function is not to do our work for us, but to help us do it ourselves, by God’s grace.” – Eileen Elias Freeman

“Ever felt an angel’s breath in the gentle breeze? A teardrop in the falling rain? Hear a whisper amongst the rustle of leaves? Or been kissed by a lone snowflake? Nature is an angel’s favorite hiding place.” -Terri Guillemets

Browned Butter Butterscotch Cookies

By: Brady Evans

One of my pet peeves about my lovely husband is that while we are shopping, he occasionally neglects to put back an unwanted purchase in its proper spot on the shelf. I often scurry behind him, filing books exactly where they came from on the shelf in the bookstore, replacing shirts that don’t fit just so on the rack, and tucking loaves of bread exactly where they belong on the shelf. Recently, I fell victim to a shopper much like husband. Apparently someone had put back a bag of butterscotch chips in the chocolate chip section of the shelf at the grocery store.

I was highly disappointed when I got home to see that I had purchased the wrong embellishments for my to-be-made cookies. But, hey, it turned into a good reason to experiment with a new recipe. These cookies were a nice change from the norm, but so rich and sweet that it is hard to eat more than one.

Browned Butter Butterscotch Cookies

Browned Butter Butterscotch Cookies (adapted from Pioneer Woman)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 whole large eggs
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 rounded tablespoons (additional) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups butterscotch chips

Instructions:

  1. Add one stick of butter to a medium skillet over medium heat. Melt butter and allow it to bubble and brown for 3 to 4 minutes, swirling the pan to keep the butter moving around.
  2. When the butter is a medium golden brown, remove the pan from the heat and into a heatproof bowl and allow it to cool completely, about 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, allow the other stick of butter to soften.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  5. Cream the softened stick butter together with the brown sugar and regular sugar until combined in a mixer.
  6. Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat until smooth, scraping the bowl if necessary.
  7. With the mixer on medium-low, drizzle in the cooled melted butter.
  8. Scrape the bowl and mix again for 20-30 seconds, until everything is combined.
  9. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt.
  10. Add it in by thirds, mixing on low, until it’s totally incorporated. Scrape the bowl and beat for a few more seconds.
  11. Stir in the butterscotch chips.
  12. In batches, scoop heaping tablespoons onto a baking sheet lined with a baking mat.
  13. Bake for 7 to 8 minutes, or until deep golden brown. Wait a minute or two, then transfer cookies to a cooling rack.

You Have the Right to Remain Silent

By: Chaunte McClure

When our friends need a shoulder to cry on or someone to console them, many of us may think words have to accompany our presence, but that is not necessarily the case.

I came to this realization after visiting a friend who had one of the worst experiences in her life. For years, we’ve shared some great experiences. We’ve laughed together, had deep girl-to-girl conversations, prayed together and supported one another, but on this particular Sunday night when she needed me most, I was speechless. I was numb and I kept wondering what to say as tears occasionally streamed down her face. I wanted God to give me the words that could comfort my friend who desperately wanted to be a mother. She was lying in bed, crushed because her pregnancy ended shortly after it began. She had a miscarriage – for the second time.

Weeks later, I remember her husband sending a message to thank others and me for our support during that difficult moment for them. I acknowledged his gratitude and told him I felt like I didn’t do enough. The fact that I was lost for words bothered me for a few days. Then one morning I found comfort in hearing God say I had the right to remain silent.

Through her tears and sadness, my friend recognized my silence, but rather than thinking less of me, she understood. She expressed it in a handwritten thank you card:

thank-you-card

Being there for someone doesn’t always mean we have to be vocal. Just being there is a wonderful ministry. Your presence alone can bring comfort to those who are grieving, and silence will position you to actively listen to what he or she has to say. On the other hand, speaking can add insult to injury because we tend to say the wrong things. Remember, Proverbs 12:18 says, “reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

If you find yourself in a situation where you are lost for words, remember, when you don’t know what to say, you have the right to remain silent.

I’ll introduce you to my friend soon in what I think will be my last installment of ‘baby talk.’ In the meantime, be sure to catch up on my previous posts: When Are You Having a Baby?, There’s Something to That, and Some People Say the Darndest Things.

Welcome to My “New” World

By: Crissie Miller Kirby 

Classroom

By the time you read this, I will be firmly entrenched in my new routine and my “new” world. I use the term “new” loosely because while the job and position are new, the location is not new at all.

As many of you know, I have spent the better part of the last year searching for the “right” job; one where I could be challenged daily and where I could make a difference in this world. After applying for I’m not really sure how many jobs, interviewing for a few, and not being selected for them, I was beginning to become downtrodden. I was frustrated. I was beginning to get angry.

Then, shortly after the 2013-2014 school year ended for my children, I received the email that would change everything for me. In a very sad turn of events, my children’s school had two beloved, and long-time, members of the faculty pass away last year. To help fill those positions (along with a few additional ones), the school was seeking a number of new teachers for the 2014-2015 school year.

Did I really want to be a teacher?

Could I be a teacher?

I cannot explain the drive and desire that came from within me to become a member of the faculty at W. Wyman King Academy. There were the obvious benefits of being on the same holiday and vacation schedule as the boys and not having to wonder how they would get to and from school; but that was only the tip of the iceberg for me. It was more than just a random teaching position; they needed an English I and II teacher. English . . .  And what position in the world allows a person to make a difference more than being a teacher?

Hmmmm . . .

I thought about it. Constantly. I could barely think of anything else.

I’ve always admired teachers. I’ve long been grateful for teachers, professors, and other faculty/staff members I’ve had in my life during my educational career; but, I just didn’t think I could actually be a teacher. I was unsure of my abilities. I was completely sure of my desire to make a difference and my love of English and grammar.

So, I did it. I applied for the English position.

And, I interviewed.

And, I was offered the position.

And, I accepted it.

Me? Be a teacher? And I was over the moon excited about it?

Yes, I was.

I mean, I am.

Our school year officially started on August 14th, so I have been filling my days and nights and weekends with school work.

And, you know what? I love it. I love the challenge that each new day brings.

In addition to English I and II, I am also teaching three middle school grammar courses, so I have 5 different sets of students each and every day. Teaching 6th through 10th graders provides an almost hourly change of pace, as each group has their own dynamics that are special and unique. There is definitely no monotony here! Being in an independent school setting provides me with relatively small class sizes that range from a low of 11 to a high of 17; it also affords me an opportunity to really get to know my students.

We are already moving in to our 3rd week of school, and the excitement has yet to wear off for me. I love being in my classroom, books and chalk (or dry erase markers) in hand. I love to see the looks on “my” kids’ faces as we work together and those light bulbs begin to flicker on. I love reading their daily “bell work” musings. I look forward to seeing what this coming year will bring and being able to share it with you. (Some of my kids want me to put them into my Every Woman blog postings!)

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I commented that the location of my new position was not new. There is something a little bit surreal (and more than a little bit funny) every time I unlock the door to room number 7 at W. Wyman King Academy; a room in which I, myself, was educated less than twenty years ago. Rooms that, in a few short years, God willing, will also hold my boys, as they each have attended WKA since 4K.

You see, my new world is only “new” in theory. My journey has led me to a place that is as much like home as any other. Life has truly come full circle.

The Power of the Tutorial

By: Elizabeth Webber Akre

Years ago, my sister presented me with a sushi making kit. At the time, sushi wasn’t mainstream like it is today. I’d never eaten it and really couldn’t envision myself ever eating it. Back then, all anyone (around here) knew about sushi was that it was raw fish. Of course, now we all know that raw fish is just one element of the sushi scene. But back in the day when sushi was still a mysterious unknown, my sister just bought me the kit because it contained cute little dishes.
Sushi
The dishes are truly adorable and I’ve used them tons of times when serving Asian meals, but it wasn’t until recently when I was up on a step ladder, straightening up my cabinet, that I saw the rest of the set. I had totally forgotten about the fact that the dishes belonged to a sushi kit until I saw those two sushi mats, still in their packaging. I just stared at them for a few minutes, trying to understand how I could have possibly looked right past them all this time and not even realized they were there. As I snapped out of my confused reverie, I jumped on my computer to begin seeking out recipes and instruction. I became determined to learn and master rolling my own sushi.

After doing some research, watching videos and reading, I assembled the ingredients I wanted. I made the sushi rice, sliced avocados, slightly steamed and sliced carrots, julienned cucumbers and then I practiced. My first roll was a disaster…way too much rice. My next two attempts were not only much better looking and more tightly rolled, but tasty too. I felt I had reached a successful enough level to present my efforts to my family. I picked up my 8-year-old from day camp and told her about my practice runs. Instantly, she exclaimed, “Oh Mommy, I want to roll one too! I watched a tutorial!” I nodded my head and mumbled something like “Sure, you can help” as I reflected on the process and what I thought she could really do.

Big mistake. I believe the proper description of what I’d just done was to grossly underestimate my child and the power of the tutorial. Turns out, with the right teacher and the right student, a video tutorial can be quite effective. I insisted that she stand by as my assistant so I could show her how it’s done. After all, I’d been practicing all morning while she was at camp. Surely there was much she could learn from me! All the while, she kept repeating that she’d watched a tutorial. “Let me do one Mom. Let me do it myself.” So, I gave off one of my signature exasperated sighs as I stepped back, my palms up and my “Fine, you’ll see!” attitude, and let her take the reigns.

Even adding a swipe of wasabi

Even adding a swipe of wasabi

Arranging her ingredients

Arranging her ingredients

This baby-o-mine stepped up to the counter, spread the rice on top of the nori, arranged her cucumbers, carrots and avocado and began to roll. SHE ROLLED A PERFECT CALIFORNIA ROLL. I mean, it was perfect. It was tight, the ingredients were grouped together well, the rice stayed put. It was beautiful. It was way better than mine. I realized that my 8-year-old just spanked me after watching one tutorial. I was impressed.

Vivian’s California Roll

Vivian’s California Roll

My crab roll

My crab roll

The fruits of our labor

The fruits of our labor

The moral of this story is clear. I need to quit assuming that only I can teach her. I now know that she doesn’t necessarily need to watch and hear my instructions over and over and over again. And those video tutorials are certainly more valuable than I ever really gave them credit. I had watched several of them myself, but my daughter only needed one. And, she obviously has the knack for sushi rolling!

Elizabeth writes “Gastronomy (by a Wanna-be Chef)” which details her family’s adventures in eating, drinking and being merry. Follow on Facebook and on Twitter.